Aseptic tap crosses the low-acid divide

Delivering purity and proving food is pure are two different issues, and the latter has proved to be an insurmountable barrier for valves used in aseptic bags-until now. Based on validation work by process authorities at the Institute of Environmental Health Laboratories (IEH) and its own microbiological testing, New York-based Steuben Foods Inc. is rolling out low-acid foods in aseptic pouches that don’t require refrigeration after opening.

Steuben officials unveiled the Whitney’s line of iced coffees and teas at November’s NACS Show for convenience-store operators, and they expect to begin shipping product in early 2008. “Multi-serve bag-in-box is new to us, and these aseptic products always have had an issue with the requirement to refrigerate,” notes Ken Schlossberg, president of Steuben, a leading aseptic copacker. “Validating sterility through a well-respected process authority made the difference” in the decision to launch the first low-acid products that don’t require refrigeration after the valve is open to the atmosphere.

Designing a testing protocol to validate sterility after the tap is opened may be Lake Forest Park, WA-based IEH’s greatest contribution to the debate. Both International Dispensing Corp. (IDC) and Scholle Corp. have offered single-fitment aseptic bags for at least four years, bolstering the business case over two-fitment bags with tests by multiple process authorities. Validating the technology’s efficacy to the satisfaction of the FDA was another matter, and processors who distributed single-fitment bags recommended storing open containers below 40

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